The NBA is in an interesting situation. There are several players entering health and safety protocols due to testing positive for COVID-19 or being in close contact with someone who did.
Players like Kevin Durant, Trae Young and many others have entered protocols at some point this season, and many NBA rosters are taking a hit. In some cases, games are being postponed due to teams not having enough active players to play in the game. And one way the NBA and its teams are trying to combat that is by offering 10-day contracts through the NBA Hardship Exception. Since then, teams have signed several players, including some that haven’t been in the league in a few years. And if you follow the NBA, you may remember some of those names.
Here are three players making their NBA comeback.
1.) Isaiah Thomas
Isaiah Thomas has an interesting NBA journey. He was the last pick of the 2011 draft, who, after playing for the Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns, found a home with the Boston Celtics.
Thomas became a household name in Boston, and in his first season with the Celtics, he finished second in the Sixth Man of the Year race. Then, Thomas improved, and by his third year with the Celtics, he averaged a career-high 28.9 points.
Thomas had some memorable performances in the 2017 playoffs, including a 53 point game after the death of his sister. He played great, and after beating the Washington Wizards in the second round, he missed the Eastern Conference finals due to a hip injury.
After his injury (and a trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers), Thomas wasn’t the player he once was. He went from team to team, and recently, it took a 42 point performance in the NBA’s G-League to get him a 10-day contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. And after that contract expired, he signed another 10-day deal with the Dallas Mavericks.
Regardless of his journey, Thomas is the underdog fans love to root for. And as he returns to the NBA, we’ll be cheering him on during the season.
2.) Lance Stephenson
Before signing with the Atlanta Hawks, Lance Stephenson was searching for a home. He played for the Lakers in 2018 but played in China for the Liaoning Flying Leopards the following year. Then, he was selected by the Grand Rapids Gold of the G-League in their 2021 draft. He averaged 19.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists in that time.
Stephenson signed his deal with the Hawks on December 22, and since then, he’s seen little action. But being a scrappy defender and competitor (that used to annoy LeBron James), Stephenson could find a home elsewhere. Hopefully, that will be the case.
3.) Joe Johnson
Joe Johnson is a player that’s still got it. He’s been showing out in Ice Cube’s Big 3 league for the past few seasons, and at one point, it caught the eye of the NBA. He first returned to the NBA on a deal with the Detroit Pistons in 2019. But he was later waived. Then, the Boston Celtics (the team that drafted him) signed him to a 10-day contract.
Like Stephenson, Johnson isn’t getting much playing time. However, it is great to see him in the league.
These players have had different journeys, but as the NBA goes through this challenging time, we’ll see them (and other former players) in action. And they deserve the shot.